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Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) - DVD Review

By Widge - posted 04.27.03 @ 6:28 am
Who Framed Roger Rabbit DVD cover art

Film:
DVD:

Written by: Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman, based on the novel Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleischer, Kathleen Turner, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy

Features:

  • All three Roger Rabbit shorts
  • Who Made Roger Rabbit? documentary, hosted by Fleischer
  • Trouble in Toowntown game
  • Running audio commentary with director Zemeckis, screenwriters Price & Seaman, producer Frank Marshall, associate producer Steve Starkey, and visual effects supervisor Ken Ralston
  • "Toowntown Confidential" subtitled option with facts and trivia
  • Deleted scene: "The Pig Head Sequence" with an intro by Zemeckis
  • Before and After - split-screen comparison with and without animation
  • Behind the Ears behind-the-scenes documentary
  • Toon Stand-Ins featurette
  • On Set! Benny the Cab making-of sequence
  • The Valiant Files interactive gallery with character designs, production artwork and posters

Released by: Buena Vista
Region: 1
Rating: PG
Anamorphic: Yes.

My Advice: Own it.

It's Hollywood, 1947. Eddie Valiant (Hoskins) is a down-on-his-luck gumshoe barely staying afloat, lost in a bottle following the death of his brother. Roger Rabbit (voiced by Fleischer) is a star of Maroon Studios who's got everything: starring roles, fame, and an animated bombshell of a wife--Jessica (voiced by an uncredited Turner). Trouble is, Jessica appears to be running around on Roger--and Valiant gets hired to provide the proof. However, what seems like a simple job taking some naughty pictures reveals a huge conspiracy that could result in the destruction of the cartoons' home: Toontown.

What an incredible film. First of all, it's Bob Zemeckis back before all his talent was seemingly drained out of him: so that's quality. Second, you've got Bob Hoskins (who I already respected for pulling off this role--but the special features only expanded my knowledge of what he had to bring to the table), acting his arse off. Third, you've got the biggest, best homage to the cartoons of old that you could possibly think of. I mean, seriously, for the fan of cartoons--and if you're not a fan, I have no idea what you're doing on this site--could you conceive of a better tribute than this? No, of course you couldn't.

As is pointed out in the features, this is probably the only time you'll ever see Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny sharing a screen. Or Donald and Daffy Duck sharing an act on stage. Or any number of combinations of Warner Brothers, Disney, MGM, and Hanna-Barbera cartoon characters. Befitting such a singular film, you get a pretty damn good showing of it on this Vista Series set.

Bob Hoskins as Eddie Valiant with Roger Rabbit

Bob Hoskins and Roger Rabbit: The handcuff gag

First up, you get the full-screen on one disc and the widescreen anamorphic on the other. The full-screen disc is referred to as being "Family Friendly," although as I've said before: why a film in pan-and-scan is friendly to families, I have no idea. People who prefer pan-and-scan to the full picture of widescreen simply shouldn't breed. Harsh, but deep in your heart, you know I'm right.

On this first disc, you get the three Roger Rabbit shorts--Tummy Trouble, Rollercoaster Rabbit, and Trail Mix-up--which all look great, and are nice to have since, if you're like me, you didn't get a chance to have all three in the cinema. The Who Made Roger Rabbit mini-documentary is hosted by Fleischer, and is definitely oriented towards rugrats. Fleischer jumping around the frame and doing everything really big is novel for about the first sixty seconds, then adults in the audience will begin gnawing at their own limbs.

Bob Hoskins with a pig-head from Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Bob Hoskins, definitely not kosher

Lastly on that disc you have the Trouble in Toontown set-top game. Honestly, I have no clue why games are included on DVDs. I'm convinced these are the brainchild of home video execs who have never played a recent video game. Why even a small child, who can play games on their PC if nothing else, would be amused by pressing a button at the appropriate time to smack a weasel on their TV screen is beyond me. Granted, Trouble isn't as slow as a lot of other games that I've had on DVDs to review--but still, it's about as much fun as...well, cleaning kitchen cabinets.

This brings us to the "Enthusiast" disc, as number two is dubbed. First up, you get the very crowded commentary with all the luminaries listed up top. What's nice is that not only do you get almost everybody you could want to hear from on the crew side of things (a separate actor commentary with Fleischer, Hoskins, Lloyd and others would have been bloody ideal), but they're mindful of the fact they're a roomful of guys who, at times, can sound the same. They introduce themselves before they speak, so that it's easy to follow what's going on. And there's a lot going on, as they relate plenty of geek-feed technical information while having a pretty good time amongst themselves--so that's very cool.

Bob Hoskins acting with Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny on a bluescreen from Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Bob Hoskins acting with Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny on a bluescreen from Who Framed Roger Rabbit

One of the things I've liked ever since I saw it first used on The Abyss DVD is a subtitle commentary, where you can share even more technical stuff than commentators are likely to. Finding the "Toontown Confidential" option listed on the DVD here was obviously a huge joy for me--until I started going through it. Nowhere near the technical fun of Abyss, it's peppered here with painfully obvious bits of trivia and a bunch of worthless info. The one thing it is good for, however, is walking you through the various appearances of characters--just in case you don't know who Koko the Clown is, for example, or where the hell he comes from. But beyond that, it's unfortunately a waste.

The deleted scene they include here is noteworthy, as it marks (we're told) the first bit of finished animation--and is fairly amusing to boot. "The Pig Head Sequence" is pretty cool, but you can understand why it was cut. The Behind the Ears documentary is a worthy addition as well, since it does what you wish the mini-doc on the first disc had done: namely given you a boatload of info, talked with a bunch of people, and taken you through the production itself. Around forty minutes in length, it's substantial and rather cool. Another bit I'm glad they put on here, for posterity reasons if nothing else, is footage of the cast and crew working with the "life-size" (or would that be toon-size) versions of the toons on set--they had basically created rubberized versions of the characters, so that the actors and cameramen could figure out where the hell they were supposed to look and when. It's also interesting to see Eddie Valiant wearing glasses and talking in Hoskins' normal accent (!).

Bob Hoskins talks Who Framed Roger Rabbit

The "On the Set!" sequence where they show you the shooting of the scene where Benny winds up on a bridge, breaking through a median fence, is short, but interesting. Before you were seeing a lot of small things happening in pantomime--a gun floating through a scene, or what the octopus tending bar looks like with no octopus--here you get, you know, cars having to interact with something that isn't there. Which is interesting.

My favorite part of this edition, though--bar none--and the thing that would put it on the buy list even if that were the only feature: the split screen comparison of Eddie in Toontown. The top of the screen shows you the finished product, while the bottom part shows you Hoskins doing all the work in a blue screen environment. You'll respect him even more when you're finished; trust me on that.

Now, I must admit: in The Valiant Files, where you can go through the prerequisite sketches gallery and whatnot, you can't convince me that they exhausted their archives. Some characters only get two screens worth of pics; if you know anything about the creation of animated characters--they get drawn six ways from Sunday. So I know they skipped out on some stuff. Maybe they're hedging their bets for the next Uber-Edition, but you can never tell. So a slight disappointment there.

Apart from a couple of small grievances (small in comparison with the rest of the set's contents), you've got a winner. Any fan of the film or animation in general will recognize this for what it is: a must-own.

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Read More About:

Widgett Walls is Need Coffee's Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. He is the author of the novel Mystics on the Road to Vanishing Point, and two collections of short stories, Magnificent Desolation and Something Else: The Complete First Season. He is also co-author of the children's book There's a Zombie in My Treehouse! All of those books are available in paperback or for the Kindle from Amazon. He is also the narrator and publisher of the first unabridged recording of Seneca's letters, available here. He is active on both Twitter and Facebook. (If you befriend him on Facebook, do say you came via Need Coffee.) He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He hardly ever sleeps.

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